Fall 2019 Honors Scholars Seminars

A list of all Fall 2019 Honors Scholars Seminars offered through the University of Louisville Honors Program.

Woodcock National Travel Seminar: Ancient Americans

The application for this course is due by March 18, 2019 at 11:59pm.  Please click here to read more and apply.

HON 341-04 / HON 351-04
TTh, 2:30 - 3:45
Professor John Hale
Projected Cost of Travel: $900-$1300 (Final costs will be determined at a later date)

This course will explore the cultures and achievements of the first Americans, from Ice Age hunters to the farmers, astronomers, and moundbuilders who transformed our continent. About 20,000 years ago, Ice Age hunting groups followed herds of big game across a (now vanished) land bridge between Siberia and Alaska.  Thus, unknowingly, they became the first Americans.  Exploring and expanding through this newly discovered continent, they developed an extraordinary array of regional cultures.  From the sub-Arctic to the desert Southwest, and from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains, these early peoples adapted to the land.  They first became expert hunters and gatherers of America’s unique array of natural resources, including plants, animals, lands and waterways. 

In time, these First Nations evolved civilized communities with highly developed laws, medical sciences, architectural traditions and social systems.  Until their rise to civilization was short-circuited by the arrival of Europeans after 1492, which decimated the native populations with epidemic diseases, the original native Americans had succeeded in adapting to every environmental challenge.  Indeed, they created inventions, philosophies and other cultural achievements that continue to shape our modern world. 

In this seminar, participating students will gain an overview of the First Americans, and also conduct individual research into a specific aspect of their cultures, arts, sciences, technology, and religious beliefs.  They will also participate in an end-of-semester travel expedition to the “Four Corners” region of the American Southwest, during which we will explore both prehistoric and contemporary sites, including cliff-dwellings, pueblos, and tribal reservations.

This course fulfills requirements in the Social Sciences or Natural Sciences. 


“More Human than Human”: Explorations of Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Consciousness in Modern Science Fiction

HON 331-01 / HON 341-01
TTh, 2:30 - 3:45 
Professor Roy Fuller

As the motto of the Tyrell Corporation from the film Blade Runner, “More Human than Human” refers to the company’s goal of making androids as humanlike as possible. Creating and interacting with human-like machines has long been a theme of science fiction literature and film. Shows like Westworld, Humans, and Person of Interest explore the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence in the form of creations that are indistinguishable from humans. Questions surrounding what separates humans from machines have provided fodder for both artists and philosophers for generations, but the increasing use of artificial intelligence and advances in robotics are generating both excitement and growing concern about a future where humans and machines interact in ways which were inconceivable to previous generations of humans and which might actually threaten human existence. What do fictional portrayals of artificial intelligence and robotic consciousness reveal about the nature of human consciousness? What is the difference between humans and machines that are capable of complex thought and behavior? Isaac Asimov has warned, “the saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” Are there dangers as we approach robotic consciousness—a goal already being pursued by researchers and corporations? And if so, does contemporary science fiction not only ask, but possibly answer these questions?   

This course will examine the nature of robotic consciousness from a wide range of disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, religion, and fictional portrayals with particular focus on contemporary TV and film.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. 


Politics of Oil

HON 341-02 / HON 351-02 / POLS 363-01
TTh, 9:30 - 10:45
Professor Charles Ziegler

For more than a century oil has been integral to the growth and development of the world economy, and key to American prosperity. Control of oil supplies has been a critical factor in international relations, and is closely tied to military conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Oil dependency constrains the foreign policy options of even the most powerful nations. Major oil companies are presumed to have considerable influence on the policies of many countries, including the United States, and oil wealth generated by one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia--has been used to fund terrorist organizations. Our need for oil has led to terrible environmental disasters, including the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills. Fracking technology has transformed the United States from a major oil importer to the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, to the point that some analysts argue we no longer have significant interests in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. We will look at the relationship between oil and politics for some of the major oil exporters, including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, and Nigeria, and major importers, such as Europe, China, India, and Japan. The role of oil in major international conflicts—including the Gulf wars—and its impact on internal conflicts, such as the ethnic clashes in Sudan and Nigeria, is another dimension we’ll consider. We will discuss the “resource curse”—how oil wealth hinders both development and democracy, and we will seek to understand why. Finally, we will assess how energy impacts the national security of the United States and our allies.

This course fulfills requirements in the Department of Political Science, the Social Sciences, or the Natural Sciences.


Adaptations: Reboots, Franchises, and Tie-ins!

HON 331-03 / HON 341-03
MW, 2:00 - 3:15
Professor Siobhan Smith-Jones

…Ever had that weird sense of déjà vu when it comes to your media? What about all of the books that have been made into television shows and movies? He’s Just Not That into You, If Beale Street Could Talk, and the Princess Bride are just a few. Let’s not forget the movies that have been made into amusement park rides and games, or vice versa? How many Spider-Man reboots should there be? Is there a limit on Law and Order? What are the connections among Kanye West’s Yeezus, The Life of Pablo, and Ye? Just think of all of the media texts that have found extended life as comic books and novels (e.g., Stephen King’s The Stand, Joe Hill’s Nosferatu, Star Wars). Reality TV is its own beast altogether—consider genres such as dating shows (e.g., The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Flavor of Love, etc.) and makeover shows (e.g., Botched, Dr. 90210—versus Flip or Flop, Zombie House Flipping, and others). 

This course will provide you with the necessary critical tools to reflect upon and understand the various gratifications adaptations provide their audiences. In addition, you will explore the media landscape that makes adaptations possible—including media conglomeration, technology, and fair use. During the semester, we will develop a more thorough and critical understanding of what makes some adaptations work and why we’re ashamed of others. My hope is that you will become more thoughtful, engaged, critical audience members who are able to understand the purposes of adaptations.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

Alchemy and the Occult in the Middle Ages / WR

HON 436-02 / HON 446-02 / ENGL 401-02

MWF 1-1:50
Professor Andrew Rabin

During the Middle Ages, the search for the ‘Philosopher’s Stone’—a magical substance that could transform base substances into gold—captured the imagination of scientists and poets, theologians and heretics, scholars and laypeople alike. Tempted by the lure of a magical substance that would bring power, fame, love, and wealth, would-be alchemists from all walks of life set up laboratories, pored over ancient texts, and practiced arcane rituals, all the while concealing their pursuit from Church authorities who viewed such practices as the work of the devil. Although the Philosopher’s Stone remained elusive, the search had a profound impact on Western culture: it inspired such authors as Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson; it produced some of the earliest translations of Islamic scientific and medical texts for Christian readers; and it led to the development of methods of experimentation that shaped the modern fields of Chemistry, Physics, and Biology.

In this course, we will trace the history of medieval magical and alchemical practices from their late Classical beginnings through their proliferation in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Our readings will range from alchemical manuals passed in secret from hand to hand by practitioners of the “Mysterious Science” to literary texts concerning figures such as Simon Magus and Dr. Faustus.  And as we follow their search for the Philosopher’s Stone, who knows? Perhaps we might even succeed where others have failed…

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Department of English.


The American West in Film, Literature, and Art

HON 331-05 / HON 341-05
MW, 3:30 - 4:45 
Professor Dan Jones

Some of the most representative presentations of the culture and history of the United States derive from the experiences and landscapes of the American West and the American frontier, as presented by artists, filmmakers and writers over the last several centuries.  Using both academic writings and creative works (primarily movies, novels, and art) we will explore four major themes in the history and expression of the American West:  landscapes, peoples, conflict and community, and mythology.  Beginning with landscapes, we will study the environmental history of the western regions of the United States, as well as the role those landscapes played in the interpretation of the frontier in American history.  Then we will study the diverse peoples who have inhabited those landscapes.  Next, we will look at the various communities that were created in this region, and the conflicts and accommodations that shaped them.   Finally, we will look at the American West as a story that has been mythologized—from landscapes like Monument Valley to trappers and cowboys, to the modern urban west as portrayed in such movies as “Chinatown”—and experience the narratives and archetypes that have been created around these histories.  We will approach our studies from national, global and regional perspectives, and use a variety of media to pursue our themes, as well as academic writings and perspectives on the region, beginning with Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous “frontier thesis” to more recent interpretations of the role and meaning of the region in the history of the United States and the world.  As a seminar, student participation and small-group communication skills will be key, and students will be required to lead special topics throughout the semester, as well as write short essays and complete a final project in a medium of their choice.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or Social Sciences.


Worst Case Scenarios

HON 331-09 / HON 341-09
TTh, 4:00 - 5:15
Professor Bethany Smith

What if the zombies finally came for us? What if the government banned the letters of the alphabet, one by one? What if soot came out of our pores in moments of rage, lust, or deceit? What if a class spent an entire semester talking about these and other “what if?” scenarios, and why we are so drawn to them? In this seminar, we’ll read about various dystopias, post-apocalypses, alternate histories, and other darkest timelines. We’ll ask why a harrowing premise can be the source of so much pleasure, and what stories of suffering, societal collapse, and survival might have to say to us about ourselves. Is reading about worst-case scenarios a passive exercise in titillation? Does it have the potential to clarify our values or galvanize us in real life? Why is stressing ourselves out so much fun? We’ll end by discussing the art project The Future Library, which gestures toward the hope that in a hundred years we’ll still be around...and we’ll still be reading.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or Social Sciences.

Batman: Dark Knights

HON 331-75 / HON 341-75
W, 5:30 - 8:30
Professor Dwain Pruitt

Since he debuted in Detective Comics #27, Batman, the Bat-Family, and his rogues’ gallery have become global icons. Why? Why has the story of a child so traumatized by his parents’ murder that he, as an adult, spends a fortune to hunt deranged, murderous criminals while dressed in an armored bat costume thrilled audiences for 80 years?  “Batman: Dark Knights” traces Batman’s history from his origins in 1930s pulp fiction to Scott Snyder’s recent run. Attention will largely be focused on Batman comics and graphic novels, but we will also explore Batman’s various television and film incarnations. You will consider a number of controversial elements from the character’s past and present, particularly in contemporary Batman and Bat-Family stories. As this seminar’s title suggests, there have been several distinct incarnations of the Dark Knight and his world. Come spend a semester in Arkham Asylum and you will get to meet all of them!

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or Social Sciences.

Health and Environment

HON 341-06 / HON 351-06 

TTh, 9:30 - 10:45
Professor Russell Barnett

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 13 million deaths annually (20% of total) are due to environmental factors.  The environmental burden of disease is 15 times higher in developed countries as well as higher in urban areas.  This course will explore how air pollution, water quality, and climate change impact human health, and this topic is particularly relevant as environmental regulations are being scaled back. In particular, the course is designed to provide a greater understanding of the correlations between environmental quality, health outcomes, and life expectancies.   We will explore impacts locally and globally.  Part of the course will be experiential learning, testing water and air quality in Louisville, and participating in the Green Heart research project conducted by the new Envirome Institute at UofL.

This course fulfills requirements in the Social Sciences or the Natural Sciences.

Nonprofit Leadership

HON 331-07 / HON 341-07
TTh, 4:00 - 5:15
Professor E. Bobbitt

Louisville is regarded as a Compassionate City. Currently, the city has over 2,200 nonprofit organizations that provide support for social services, environmental research, pediatric healthcare, education, child advocacy and more. Nonprofits thrive in Louisville and will continue to do so in the future. One essential question is what does it take to be a leader in the nonprofit sector? How can nonprofit leaders align their values and skill-sets to address civic needs? This seminar will examine nonprofits in Louisville. Specifically, the course will focus on the organizational structure, behavior, perception, volunteer management, marketing, fundraising and special events of nonprofits. The seminar will analyze the dos and don’ts on nonprofit management, using both theoretical and case study approaches. The course also will explore moral issues and ethical conduct among Louisville nonprofit volunteers and employees.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

The City

HON 331-11 / HON 341-11 / POLS 305-01
TTh, 11:00 - 12:15
Professor Charlie Leonard

We will approach urban studies from a multidisciplinary perspective. We cannot understand how the modern city works without understanding America’s history of settlement by succeeding waves of European ethnics and the movement of African Americans from the plantation South to the industrial North. An anthropological perspective is important in looking at how European, Asian, and Hispanic immigrants and African American transplants brought their cultures with them to the city, and how those cultures impacted their respective social and political organizations. Economic forces are obviously powerful in shaping the American city and in determining whether it succeeds or fails. Much of the energy of city officials is spent trying to make a better “business climate” in order to improve the quality of life and to obey the imperative that their municipality must grow or die. American cities look the way they do, and are organized the way they are, largely as a result of political decisions. Elected and appointed officials write and enforce the rules of the game, and their decisions are influenced by voters, business interests, and other political entities. From the political scientist’s perspective, of course, everything is politics, particularly when we are talking about decisions that create winners and losers in the public sphere. We will use the City of Louisville as an example, a laboratory, and a resource.

This course fulfills requirements in the Department of Political Science, the Humanities, or the Social Sciences.

Creative Placehealing: Developing an Innovative Media Strategy through Creativity, Culture, Science, Business, and Social Justice

HON 431-01 / HON 441-01 / PHPH 550-02
TTh, 1:00 - 2:15
Professor Theo Edmonds

What does “Creative Placehealing” mean?  Culture—in the physical and digital places where we work, live, learn and play—impacts our health. Creative Placehealing is an evolutionary approach to population health research and development, which centers innovation on creativity and culture.  UofL’s Center for Creative Placehealing (CCP), directed by Theo Edmonds, is a collaboration between the School of Public Health and Information Sciences and several partners including the IDEAS xLab and a coalition of private sector businesses, government agencies, other universities, philanthropic foundations, creative industries, and healthcare providers.  The CCP’s theory of change asserts that culture-bearers, creatives, and creative industry companies, when backed by science, can: 

  1. Expand opportunities for population health innovation and entrepreneurship; 
  2. Build new corporate social responsibility partnerships between health organizations and private sector businesses seeking to maximize their community impact and shareholder value; and, 
  3. Create positive, measurable, social impact for progress toward an inclusive economy.

Much of the seminar will be based off-campus in various “real-world” settings in and around Louisville’s innovation scene. Students will experience an inclusive, efficient, intellectual space for developing culturally-responsive solutions with and for communities, consumers, and employees. They will learn how to create and combine cultural strategies, innovation labs, health/social research and scalable media-based initiatives. Depending on the project that emerges, students may even have the opportunity to work directly with Louisville-based companies and Metro Government.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the School of Public Health and Information Sciences.


Special Topics in Economics

HON 441-05 / ECON 490-01
TTh, 11:00 – 12:15 
Professor Conor Lennon

A variety of topics in economic theory and/or its application will be studied. Course content will vary but the content will not duplicate current offerings. Previous semesters have focused on the microeconomics of development and the economics of identity, culture, and religion. Prerequisite: ECON 201.

This course fulfills requirements in the Social Sciences or the Department of Economics/College of Business. 


Speculative Souths / WR

HON 436-01 / HON 446-01
MW, 2:30 – 3:45 
Professor Amy Clukey

In the early years of science fiction, space frequently figured as the American West writ large—the final frontier. In the genre’s darker, grittier reboot era, however, it often looks more like the final plantation, from Blade Runner’s updated slavecatchers to the exploited Appalachians of William Gibson’s The Peripheral.  And even as some white writers, in the twilight of American empire, set their dystopian survivalist fantasies in the region (The Road, The Walking Dead), self-consciously “southern” varieties of Afrofuturism and speculative blackness, ranging from OutKast to novels such as Kiese Laymon’s Long Division and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, represent it as a site of vibrant black futurity contesting and sometimes transcending both the nation’s plantation past and its carceral present. Meanwhile, climate change fiction and ecological fiction set in the South, from Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior to Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, is on the rise as the region’s coasts begin to sink. This seminar seeks to make sense of these and other “southern turns” in speculative fiction, broadly defined across multiple media and subgenres. The seminar considers how the U.S. South has been imagined in speculative fiction—broadly defined—from the nineteenth century to the present. We will read texts that imagine alternate histories of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, as well as those that map imaginary Souths onto fictional worlds. Topics may include Afrofuturism, science fictions of the global South, utopias/dystopias, horror and the gothic, surrealism/absurdism, and graphic narratives.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

Latin American Politics: Current Issues and Obstacles / WR

HON 436-03 / HON 446-03
TTh, 11:00 – 12:15 
Professor Julie Bunck

This course analyzes Latin America’s current political landscape.  Beginning with a historical overview that examines regional and national events and institutional and cultural development, we will then assess the current politics of a variety of Latin American countries, examining the chief political actors and institutions, the central social and political structures, and non-state organizations and social movements.  What are the chief obstacles facing the democratization processes in various countries?  Why are some countries faring markedly better economically and politically than others?  What issues currently dominate politics in the region?

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

Visual Illusion and Perception / WR

HON 446-06 / HON 456-06 / PSYC 414
TTh, 1:00 - 2:15
Professor Zijiang He

Our everyday visual perception apparently reflects the physical world we live in.  Or does it?  The answer can be glimpsed from the fascinating study of visual illusions.  In visual illusion, a stimulus in front of one’s eyes is not the same as the perception it instigates.  As a matter of fact, there are overwhelming empirical findings by vision scientists suggesting that our everyday “normal” visual perception can be considered as illusions.  This occurs because our perception of the world is not an exact replica of the external world but a creation of our brain.  One good example is color perception.  Isaac Newton remarked that, “For the rays to speak properly are not colored.  In them there is nothing else than a certain power and disposition to stir up a sensation of this or that color”.  In this regard, one can argue that visual illusions are special cases when the “created representation” of the external stimulus/object fails.  The phenomenon of visual illusion thus provides a unique opportunity for scientists to explore how the eyes and brain construct visual perception.  In this seminar, students will both participate in lectures on visual perception and read and discuss literatures on visual illusions and visual perception research.  The students will also have the opportunity to experience various forms of visual illusions and to conduct experiments studying them.

This course fulfills requirements in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, the Social Sciences, or the Natural Sciences.